The Four-Footed Ministers Pastoral-Care Program A Training Manual for Dog Ministry Based on the CAM/PS Model

Jerilyn E. Felton, George Fox University


Looking into cyberspace to see if anything in dog ministry had been attempted since 2005, the author discovered that there still remained a void in the literature and in practice regarding an over-arching program integrating dogs into ministry in healthcare settings. Though research has demonstrated possible spiritual benefits from elder-dog interactions, a programmatic, comprehensive ministry with dogs rather than to them remains relatively unexplored. However, what is needed is a formal program for dog ministry. A comprehensive program would enable chaplains to set up, launch, and maintain a "road-tested," safe, effective, and repeatable program. A training manual on such a program will be a valuable resource for chaplains, and the print-based artifact included in the appendix defines such a program. Section Two examines many of the other solutions possible to the problem of ministry with dogs rather than to them. Section Three describes the comprehensive program defined in the appendix that will enable healthcare facilities to risk implementing the use of dogs in ministry. Finally, Section Four will briefly discuss the qualitative research study undertaken to define the Four-Footed Ministers Pastoral-Care Program. Though there are many ministers and volunteers use their dogs in visiting patients/residents, the artifact formalizes and systematizes a comprehensive program for dog ministry ensuring that volunteers and professional teams have effective and consistent guidelines. Building on elders' strong attachment to pet(s), the training manual functions as a template for chaplains to enable them to design their own Four-Footed Ministers Pastoral Care Program. Our ultimate goal is stimulation of further research into dog ministry, a concept that is in its infancy. Those involved in this project hope that others will join them on the quest to provide better spiritual/pastoral care, enjoying the company of both two-legged and four-legged travelers on the road to God.